Craig Hignett has hailed his new-look midfield as Hartlepool United prepare for their biggest challenge of the season.
The recently-appointed boss sent out a completely-changed central trio when Pools lost to a late Luton Town goal at the weekend.
There was a lot of energy either side of Nicky with Hawks and Brad.Craig Hignett
And the triumvirate of Nicky Featherstone, Lewis Hawkins and Brad Walker are set to take on runaway League Two leaders Northampton Town on Saturday.
Hignett installed Hawkins in the middle after the 22-year-old had previously appeared in a wider role under previous boss Ronnie Moore.
The Middlesbrough-born player responded in positive fashion, as did Walker who made his first start since the end of September.
With Featherstone pulling the strings in the holding role, Pools had a nice “balance” to their formation.
“Nicky was different class,” said Hignett. “If you want someone on the ball to make you tick, he was terrific.
“It was a new midfield from what we played previously and it went well.
“I was a little bit disappointed first-half with our possession and how we played it but then I felt second-half we were different class.
“It was enjoyable to watch at times.
“There was a lot of energy either side of Nicky with Hawks and Brad.
“With the two young lads in there, Nicky gave us a nice balance – he gets on the ball and passes it.”
But Hignett said he was pleased with the way his whole line-up performed.
Pools dominated possession for long periods of the second half, only to be sunk by a late Craig Mackail-Smith goal.
“All the lads were terrific,” he said.
“It was pleasing to see the whole shape of the team, the distances from front to back were really good.
“There was plenty of positive from Saturday – we worked hard and used the ball well, especially in the second half.
“Play like this and we will win more than we lose, but we have to put that into a 90-minute performance now.”
Pools probably had the edge on openings created too and Hignett will look to build on that this Saturday.
“We’ve done that every game,” he said.
“We created chances again, probably less than in the previous game but Nathan, Billy and Jake all had opportunities.
“There were plenty of efforts on goal.”